Controversial Disney CEO Bob Chapek has picked a strange hill to make a stand on. Chapek decided to defend the Disney Park’s new reservation system, which many loyal customers aren’t a fan of.
The system was first introduced when the parks reopened in summer 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than being allowed to purchase a ticket that allows them free access to the parks, guests are required to make reservations for a specific day and specific Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme park. Guests must have valid theme park admission to make a reservation, and each park only allows a certain number of entries at specific times. Guests with Park Hopper tickets or certain levels of Magic Key can move to another park without a reservation, but only after 2:00pm, and they must enter through the park their original reservation was under.
Chapek claimed the current method “guarantee a great experience” for all guests. He referenced the past system, where the parks would close for capacity on particularly busy days, such as Christmas Day. If a “family from Seattle” visited Disneyland for a two-three day visit and arrived at 10 a.m., they may have been turned away at the gate due to capacity limitations, he cited. Now, Chapek claims, a guest who visits on Thanksgiving and a guest who visits on the second Tuesday of September.
The problem with Chapek’s claims is there have been very few recorded instances of anyone being turned away from Disney Parks due to capacity issues. July 4th has garnered a particular reputation as being unreliable, and a few days around the week of Christmas, but that’s it. It seems more likely that Chapek is primarily concerned with the other piece he mentions and then attempts to gloss over: “maximizing shareholder value.” The additional reservations cost additional money, and limit where guests can travel, which in turn allows the park to have fewer staff members stationed away from key areas. In other words, guests pay more to experience less while workers remain understaffed. Some fans are even suing Disney over the system, alleging it violates the “no blockout dates” benefit of the top-tier Magic Key.
Regardless of the objections, Chapek and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro have continuously reiterated that the park pass system is here to stay. So if you’re dreaming about a Disney vacation, be sure to do ample planning ahead of time. The days of buying a pass at the door are not returning any time soon.